31 killed in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan border clashes

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Bishkek

Kyrgyzstan said at least 31 people were killed after heavy clashes at its disputed border with Tajikistan, as officials from the two ex-Soviet countries met Friday in a bid to defuse tensions.

Clashes between communities over land and water along the pair’s long-contested border are regular occurrences, with border guards often getting involved.

But shooting that broke out Thursday between the two militaries was the heaviest fighting in years and raised fears that it might escalate into a wider conflict.

Tajikistan, a closed, authoritarian state, has yet to officially acknowledge any deaths from the clashes between servicemen on Thursday.

The Kyrgyz health ministry said Friday that Kyrgyzstan had suffered at least 154 casualties, including 31 deaths in the latest bout of violence.

The leaders of both sides remained in touch Friday, offering hope that the conflict can be cooled.

President Sadyr Japarov of Kyrgyzstan and Tajik counterpart Emomali Rakhmon spoke by telephone on Friday, Japarov’s press service said, and agreed to meet “in the second half of May.”—AFP

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